The Colorado Avalanche welcomed the Calgary Flames back to Ball Arena in Denver for the second time in eight days in a contest that had the feel of a playoff game. The Avalanche, losers of four of their last five games, including a 4-3 overtime loss to the Flames a week earlier, played a high octane, aggressive game, defeating the Flames 3-0.
The Flames, second place in the Western Conference, outshot the Avalanche, first place in the Western Conference, 46-32, but never really threatened. Both goaltenders played exceptionally well between the pipes, with the Avalanche’s Darcy Kuemper coming out on top. The Avalanche dressed only 11 forwards and six defensive players, and the Flames were playing their fifth contest in seven days, including the second of a back-to-back.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Kuemper Has a Monster Night
A day after the Avalanche gave a two-year contract extension to backup goaltender Pavel Francouz, Kuemper made his strongest case yet for his own. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native stopped all 46 shots he faced, the most since the bubble playoffs in August of 2020, when he stopped 49 of 52 against the Nashville Predators, and 49 of 51 against the Avalanche.
No save was more impressive than Kuemper’s brilliant swipe with his glove to rob Matthew Tkachuk with 33 seconds left on the clock. Moving from his right to his left, he extended his pad, but Tkachuk lifted the puck for what looked like a certain goal when Kuemper flashed the leather, leaving the Calgary forward scratching his head.
Kuemper now sports a 27-8-2 record on the year with a 2.54 goals-against average (GAA), and .919 save percentage (SV%). In his last two games, he has allowed one goal on 82 shots. Since Jan. 1, his four shutouts are tied for the league lead with Jakob Markstrom of the Flames, and his .933 SV% over that stretch is second-best among goalies who have started at least 15 games (Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers leads the way with a .943 SV%.).
MacKinnon’s Torrid Pace
With the team’s goal-scoring leader Gabriel Landeskog out indefinitely for surgery on his knee (though the team is hopeful he will return before the end of the regular season), there was added pressure heading into the contest on the other Avalanche forwards, notably Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Nazem Kadri. They did not disappoint.
MacKinnon had two goals, Rantanen a goal and an assist, and Kadri an assist. For MacKinnon, it was his 12th goal in his last 13 games, which is second-best in the league over that stretch, tied with Elias Lindholm of the Flames and one behind Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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Rantanen now has 28 goals on the year. His 69 total points and plus/minus of plus-32 are both good enough for ninth in the league. It was Kadri’s 10th point in the last 10 games; his 73 total points are sixth-best in the NHL.
Kurtis MacDermid Continues to Contribute
Kurtis MacDermid, who started the game on defense, has seen his time on ice (TOI) grow over the last two games. With Sam Girard on the injured list, the 6-foot-5 utility player had a TOI of 9:56 in this game, and 8:50 in Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
While definitely on the team for his size and physicality more than his skating or stickhandling skills, MacDermid has settled into his role on the team nicely. He’s playing competent defense, with zero giveaways in his last 11 games, and has shown a willingness to throw bombs at the net from the blue line.
With Landeskog, who has been known to play the role of enforcer off the ice, and the defense shorthanded, look for MacDermid to continue to see increased ice time.
Game Notes and Up Next
With the win, the Avalanche increased their lead in the Western Conference to 10 points over the Flames, and lead the Hurricanes in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy by two points. The Avalanche will now travel to Los Angeles to face the Kings on Tuesday night.